Even as most Alabamians are staying at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rodney Smith Jr. continues mowing as many yards in the Huntsville area as possible. Only now, in addition to mowing for the elderly, disabled, single mothers and veterans, free of charge, Smith is delivering food and supplies as well.
“People have been donating money for hand sanitizer, fresh fruit, water, toilet paper and other items for those who can’t get outside of their house,” he said. “Some have met with me to give me the items.”
On March 30, he delivered 30 meals prepared by Beacon Hill Worship Center in Madison. “I mow lawns, drop (food and supplies) off and go,” he said. But he doesn’t leave before taking a quick selfie with his clients as they peek out at their newly trimmed lawns. He posts before-and-after photos of the yards to show the difference.
It used to be that Smith would give a quick hug before he left. Hugs are forbidden now, and he uses a selfie stick to take a photo from a safe, 6-foot distance.
But he knows how much his work is appreciated, and he gets as much joy from homeowners’ reactions as they do. “When she opened the door and saw the items,” he wrote on Facebook of one elderly client recently, “she yelled, ‘YAY!’ Seeing her happy this morning made my day.”
Just did a Mow & Drop at Mr & Mrs Weigand’s house . It always great visiting them . Mr. Weigand is also a veteran ! Thank you for your service . Making a difference one lawn at a time pic.twitter.com/p5MlWTLXrc
— Rodney Smith Jr (@iamrodneysmith) April 3, 2020
As he dropped off items for another client, the man came outside and said his daughter had made sure his pantry was stocked. “He asked me to give them to another elderly person in need,” Smith wrote.
Since 2015, when he was a student at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Smith, a native of Bermuda, has dedicated himself to mowing lawns for free in all 50 states. By 2016, he had started a nonprofit organization, Raising Men Lawn Care Service, whose motto is “Making a difference one lawn at a time.”
Nationwide, 710 boys and girls are signed up for his 50 Yard Challenge. Patterned after karate, the program allows the youths to earn a different-colored T-shirt for each 10 lawns they mow. After they mow 50 lawns, they receive their own lawn mower, string trimmer and leaf blower.
Smith was planning this month to start his ninth “50 States, 50 Yards” tour, in which he mows his way to all 50 states, but he has postponed the trip because of the coronavirus threat. Last year, he started giving each tour a theme. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, he plans to find autistic children and teens to help him mow a strip of grass using a custom-made electric lawn mower that is quieter than his usual gas-powered one. Children will use a bubble mower alongside him.
At the end of the 50-state tour, he’ll auction off the lawn mower for charity. In the following months, he plans to do the same thing for Fallen Heroes, Teacher Appreciation and Childhood Cancer.
For now, though, Smith will be staying close to home until it’s safe to travel again. “I’m just mowing and doing what I love to do best: helping others,” he said.
While they are considered most at-risk for the coronavirus, the elderly people he visits are “doing well,” Smith reports. “They know this, too, shall pass, and things will get better,” he said.
For more information about Raising Men Lawn Care Service, or to donate, visit weareraisingmen.com.
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This story was first published by AL.com.